LANCASTER Moor Hospital is still costing the taxpayers a fortune six years after the last patient left.

The Citizen understands the one-time county asylum has cost the people of Lancaster and Morecambe a staggering £1 million since the doors slammed shut for the last time.

And there is no sign of the six-year stalemate coming to an end.

The historic former Lancaster County Mental Hospital closed its doors for the last time in 1999. But now taxpayers are being hit in the pocket, forking out for 24-hour security guards on duty in one part of the building.

The former asylum opened in 1816 is a stately quadrangular building of stone with pillars of the Doric order. In 1913 it held 2,400 patients.

It was renamed Lancaster Moor Hospital when the National Health Service was formed in 1948 and one half of the 200-year-old site is now home to executive houses.

But plans to develop the landmark listed main building have stalled - and now it is empty save for the security guards on daily duty.

Morecambe Bay Primary Healthcare Trust, estate agents Evan Kirkby and the Home Office all declined to comment when contacted by the Citizen this week.

But Andy Hird of NHS Estates says: "It is standard practice to provide security to protect sites against vandalism and we are also responsible for maintenance.

"Being a Government body we do use public money to pay for the security but any funds raised by the sale of a site are always reinvested back straight to the NHS."

He says the site will be turned into affordable housing by the English Partnership, though he cannot say when it will happen. And he would neither confirm or deny that the site has run up a £1 million bill.